Eating “Weeds”: My first Urban Foraging Experience

IMG_4995Yesterday I had my first urban foraging experience. It wasn’t really intentional. I didn’t set off to pick food for myself from the wild. I simply went on a walk with a friend. It was a beautiful, remarkably warm day, so Carrie and I took Thaddeus and the dog out for a walk. As we walked through the park I noticed there were beautiful fresh dandelions EVERYWHERE. And I was tempted.

Like most Americans I had always grown up thinking of dandelions as pesky weeds and would have never considered eating them. Then when I was pregnant last year I read about how nutritious dandelion greens are and how great they can be for pregnant women. So, I started eating them. But, I still never considered picking them – instead we bought them from Whole Foods regularly during the 5 months we were in the states. So, I had come around to the leaves, but was still clueless about using any of the rest of the plant and definitely didn’t consider anything but the store bought variety.

Recently, though, I read this blog talking about making dandelion fritters from the bright yellow flower and I was intrigued, but still ambivalent. But, then I saw all of the fresh dandelions in the park. They looked like the epitome of summer. They beckoned to me… calling out to me. “Eat me. Eat me.” So, I did.

I picked a few, came home, and made dandelion fritters.

It was really super easy and tasty. Here’s what you do.

  1. Pick some dandelions – just the heads of the flowers, no stems.
  2. Wash them well.
  3. Make the batter – Mix 1 cup flour (I used whole wheat flour), 1 egg, and 1 cup milk (I used organic sour milk because that was what I had on hand). Then you have a choice you can make them savory by adding salt and pepper or any other savory spice you desire, or you can make them sweet by adding a little maple syrup to the batter or, of course, you could just leave them as is. The choice is yours. I made mine with just a little unrefined sea salt and pepper.
  4. Heat some oil in a frying pan.
  5. Dip the flowers in the batter – just hold them by the base and swirl them around in the batter until they are well covered.
  6. Place the batter-covered-dandelions in the frying pan and cook until golden on one side then flip over and cook till golden on the other side.
  7. Eat and Enjoy!

The great thing about this herb is that not only are these little plants readily available everywhere, each part of the plant is eatable and packed with nutrients. You can make dandelion coffee from the roots, or put the roots in soup. You can make salads from the leaves, or juice them to add to a green smoothie. The flowers can be used for fritters, tea, dandelion wine, or you can just add them to a salad for a fun touch of color.

As I read more about this underappreciated herb I couldn’t help but think it sounded a little bit like a wonder drug with all of the health benefits it has traditionally been said to possess. When you look at all the nutrients packed in this little plant you can’t help but be amazed and wonder why we all aren’t eating these herbs far more often.

According to the USDA Bulletin #8, "Composition of Foods" (Haytowitz and Matthews 1984), dandelions rank in the top 4 green vegetables in overall nutritional value. Minnich, in "Gardening for Better Nutrition" ranks them, out of all vegetables, including grains, seeds and greens, as tied for 9th best. According to these data, dandelions are nature's richest green vegetable source of beta-carotene, from which Vitamin A is created, and the third richest source of Vitamin A of all foods, after cod-liver oil and beef liver! They also are particularly rich in fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the B vitamins, thiamine and riboflavin, and are a good source of protein… Studies in Russia and Eastern Europe by Gerasimova, Racz, Vogel, and Marei (Hobbs 1985) indicate that dandelion is also rich in micronutrients such as copper, cobalt, zinc, boron, and molybdenum, as well as Vitamin D.

They can successfully be used to cleanse the blood and promote better circulation, cleanse and purify the liver, help balance blood sugar, treat anemia, and reduce serum cholesterol. They also are said to have diuretic properties and be useful for aiding in digestion. That’s just to name a few!

This is one little plant that I plan on taking advantage of more often – especially since it’s FREE!

Anybody else been foraging lately? What did you pick?

Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman

foodrenegadefist_150This post has been entered in the Fight Back Fridays April 30th blog carnival at Food Renegade. Check out the link for other posts from fellow food renegades.